Wild (Fox, Blu-ray, DVD), directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (The Dallas Buyer’s Club) and adapted from Cheryl Strayed’s memoir by novelist Nick Hornby (who also scripted An Education), is more than a vehicle for its star / producer Reese Witherspoon. It’s an odyssey on a human scale: a hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, a 1700 mile journey undertaken without any preparation or training. For Sheryl, pulling herself out of depression and a self-destructive detour into drugs, it’s an American walkabout cleansing by way of a dare, though the only person she has to prove anything to is herself.
Vallée favors the texture of her experience over her story and DP Yves Bélanger keep us rooted in the beauty and the isolation of the landscape. Hornby’s adaptation is remarkably empathetic to her ordeal, moreso on the trail than in the flashbacks of her spiral into self-destruction (where Laura Dern gives a sublime performance as her mother), and it keeps her voice front and center. And while there is a conventional backbone to the story, it keeps us rooted in the experience of a single woman taking on a challenge that some veteran hikers fail to complete, never forgetting the vulnerability of doing it alone. When a couple of teenage boys rib her about the “princess” treatment she gets from a park ranger (who clearly just wants to get into her tent), she doesn’t school them or remind the audience of some of the more threatening moments she’s endured. She just gets back on the trail and focuses on what matters: moving on.
On Blu-ray and DVD with commentary by director Jean-Marc Vallée with producers Bruna Papandrea and David Greenbaum, seven promotional featurettes, and a message from author Cheryl Strayed. The Blu-ray also includes three additional featurettes, an interactive map of the Pacific Crest Trail, and deleted scenes with optional director commentary, plus an Ultraviolet Digital HD copy of the film.